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Asanas: Forward Bends


Downward Facing Dog
All Levels

Downward Facing Dog Pose | Adho Mukha Svanasana

Form: Hatha | a.k.a. Down Dog

Description: The preparatory position is with the hands and knees on the floor, hands under the shoulders, fingers spread wide, knees under the hips and typically about seven inches (17 cm) apart, with the spine straightened and relaxed.


On a deep exhale, the hips are pushed toward the ceiling, the body forming an inverted V-shape, with an arch in the back. The legs and arms are straight, the elbows engaged[dubious – discuss] , the shoulders wide and relaxed. The heels move toward the floor. The hands and feet remain hip-width apart. If the hamstrings are very strong or tight, the knees are bent to allow the spine to lengthen fully.


Stress on the wrists is reduced by pressing down with the fingers and borders of the palms, and pushing the hips up and backwards. The head drops slightly. The heart moves toward the back.


The hips move up and back. Focus is on the breath while holding the posture, with deep, steady inhalation and exhalation creating a flow of energy through the body. On an exhale, the practitioner releases onto the hands and knees and rests.


Standing Forward Bend
All Levels

Standing Forward Bend | Uttanasana

Form: Hatha

Description: Uttanasana (forward bend) is one of the most frequently practiced hatha yoga postures.

The posture consists of standing with feet together, then hinging forward from the hips, letting the head hang, with palms placed flat on the floor near the feet.

The posture provides a complete stretch to the entire back of the body, particularly the hamstrings, and regular practice has been claimed to increase general flexibility, rejuvenate the spinal nerves and the nervous system generally, ease depression, soothe and calm the mind, tone the kidneys, liver, and spleen; improve blood circulation in the legs, improve nourishment to the facial skin, scalp, and hair roots, and improve eyesight and hearing.

Because of its great popularity, this posture has a very large number of variations and associated techniques.

This pose has been criticized by some practitioners of kinesiology, physical therapy, and others, who recommend a seated rather than standing forward bend. For further information on potential risks and alternatives, see:

http://www.betterhealthchannel.com
http://starbulletin.com/96/07/03/sports/bodytalk.html
http://www.drbookspan.com/BadExercisesArticle.html
http://www.soccerdivas.com/stretching.htm

Paschimottanasana is a safer, sitting variant of this frontbend which relies more upon active flexibility of the muscles in its later stages. It is more difficult to attain similar flexibility since gravity cannot passively aid the stretch as much as in Uttanasana. Once the hands are able to bear more and more weight in Uttanasana it becomes safer and the difference in safety and customizability becomes less.


Standing Forward Bend
All Levels

Standing Forward Bend | Pādahastāsana

Form: Hatha

Description: The standing forward bend. In Sanskrit the word for foot is 'pada', and hand is 'hasta', so this position, in which the hands are stretched down to grasp the feet, translates literally to feet to hands pose. This is one of the primary yoga asanas in the hatha yoga system, an inverted posture that stretches the entire back of the body from the head to the heels.

Benefits claimed to result from the regular practice of this asana include toning of the abdominal organs, improvement in digestion with increased digestive juices, relief for sufferers from stomach bloating and gastric problems and relief from slipped discs.


Extended Puppy Pose
All Levels

Extended Puppy Pose | Uttana Shishosana

Form: Hatha

Description: Uttana Shishosana or Extended Puppy Pose is a Hatha Yoga posture. It is a forward bend which resembles Balasana-Child's Pose and is used to reduce stress and tension. The Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) or Virasana (Hero Pose) postures are the preparatory poses for Extended Puppy Pose.


Seated Forward Bend
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Seated Forward Bend | Paschimottanasana

Form: Hatha

Description: Paschimottanasana (Sanskrit: पश्चिमोत्तानासन, Paścimottānāsana), translated as "intense dorsal stretch", is a seated asana. Together with Padmasana (lotus), Siddhasana (half-lotus) and Vajrasana (lightning-bolt pose), this position is an accomplished pose according to the Shiva Samhita. It was advocated by 11th century yogi Gorakshanath.

The yogi sits on the floor with legs flat on the floor, straight ahead then bends forward from the hips to bring the trunk parallel with the legs.

A similar frontbend is Uttanasana, a standing front bend, which is more passive in its initial stages. Paschimottanasana, however, enables the arms to more easily support the upper body in the initial stages of the bend, and can be used both to move further into or move out of the stretch; it also enables much easier rotation inward or outward of the legs, abducting or adducting them at the hip, flexing or extending the knees, or enacting plantar or dorsi flexion of the ankle. These variations can be performed either as a combined stretch, to change emphasis on different tissues, or simply to take the mind off the hamstrings and lower back stretch. They can be used rhythmically to aid in relaxation.


Head to Knee Forward Bend Pose
All Levels

Head to Knee Forward Bend Pose | Janu Sirsasana

Form: Hatha

Description: Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose). The Sankrit name is pronounced JAH-noo sheer-SHAHWS-anna.

Janu means knee, sirsa means the head, and asana means pose in Sanskrit.

Janu Sirsasana is a spinal twist. It is a pose to enjoy asymmetry. The potential is to free up constriction in different parts of the back and to loosen the hamstrings. Janu Sirsasana differs from Pascimottanasana in its asymmetry in the legs and hips, and in the twisting action this asana imparts to the spine.


Wide-Legged Forward Bend
All Levels

Standing Forward Bend | Upavistha Konasana

Form: Hatha

Description: Sit in Dandasana. Lean back slightly with hands behind you and open legs to about 90 degrees - forming a right-angle. Press into your hands to slide your buttocks forward and separate your legs another 10 to 20 degrees. Rotate your thighs outward so your knees point to the ceiling. Reach your hands forward, bending at the waist. Increase the depth of the pose with each exhalation.


Tortoise Pose
All Levels

Tortoise Pose | Kūrmāsana

Form: Hatha

Description: Kurma is Sanskrit for tortoise, which the posture resembles. Laying with the chest and shoulders on the floor, the arms are outstretched rearwards on each side of the body, the legs outstretched forwards over the arms.

As is common with most yoga poses, there are many variations to the Kūrmāsana, depending on the school of yoga that is followed. Some of the more popular variations include: Supta Kūrmāsana (Sleeping Tortoise), Ardha Kūrmāsana (Half Tortoise) and Uttana Kūrmāsana (Upside-Down Tortoise).


Bound Tortoise Pose
All Levels

Bound Tortoise Pose | Bhadra Kūrmāsana

Form: Hatha

Description: Badhra Kurma is Sanskrit for bound tortoise, which the posture resembles.

As is common with most yoga poses, there are many variations to the Kūrmāsana, depending on the school of yoga that is followed. Some of the more popular variations include: Supta Kūrmāsana (Sleeping Tortoise), Ardha Kūrmāsana (Half Tortoise) and Uttana Kūrmāsana (Upside-Down Tortoise).


Marichi I Pose
All Levels

Marichi I Pose | Marichyasana I

Form: Hatha

Description:


Intense Side Stretch
All Levels

Intense Side Stretch Pose | Parshvottanasana

Form: Hatha

Description: